Friday, April 15, 2011

Vacation as a Maid

A combination of spring break, Easter (yes, I know it's still over a week away), and strikes mean that some if not most Senegalese children are not in school right now (if they go to public school, Ahmed goes to private, Catholic school which is in session). What does this mean? It means that there's kids all over all the time who enjoy taunting me and that there are little girls going on "vacation." Vacation is really a misnomer since these girls travel to different cities or villages to do house work. During Ramadan my family had two of these girls, Khady and Codou, who worked for us/ learned how to be a maid while the adult women in my family were fasting.

These past couple of weeks of vacation/ Easter/ strikes my Aunt Numbe's daughter, the one I really like, she's sassy, has been at our house. They live just down the street so she gets to go home at night, which is probably nice for her. I'm told she's around Ahmed's age, so she's five and is spending her vacation learning to pull water and being bossed around. It's definitely a little sad, but at least she's working for my family and she knows everyone.

Awa, the little girl working for us, is a spitfire. She's really funny and incredibly curious about anything and everything having to do with me. This evening Awa, Ahmed, and myself were hanging out on the porch of the bungalow having a little English lesson when she started peppering me with questions that no one else has ever asked me before. The most poignant question was "where are you parents?" It had never really crossed my mind that it's weird that I'm not living with my parents, but I am living with another family and calling a woman who is obviously not my mom "mom."

I explained to Awa that my parents are in the United States so that's why I have to live with a Senegalese family in Senegal. After laughing hysterically at the names Sharyl and Claude, Awa concluded they weren't real names. It also blew her mind that I have two names. One in Senegal and one in America. Another revelation was that my last name isn't actually "Toubab." Following this line of questioning we obviously get to the whereabouts of my husband. At this point, Ahmed pipes up and proudly explains that I don't have a husband I have a boyfriend who lives in America and who brought his a puzzle and a car. Duh. Ahmed also offered up the information that I have a brother as well as a cat that looks like a lion because it has so much hair and that it snows where I live. All very important facts.

This little episode was absolutely adorable until the conversation segued into how Awa is learning how to carry water on her head and I can't carry water on my head even though I'm really, really old. At this point I bribed them with candy to go away.


  1. Alyssa,

    How are the english lessions with Ahmed going? Don't let the five year olds wisdom bring your down.


  2. Alyssa,

    Some great photos.


  3. I am so conflicted to hear about Awa's life. I know good work makes her valuable to her family and protects her but by my ethics system it is still abuse. Wait, 70 years ago both my parents worked hard on farms with their families. I want to know if little boys are ever put into indentured servitude? I guess that's the kicker is this a form of misogyny or is everybody working for the good of the family?
    YOu know I love sassy girls! Post a photo of this one please!

  4. Alyssa - I'm pretty disappointed to hear you can't carry water on your head yet.... I was expecting you to carry around a fishbowl like that! Just kidddding - and yeah, my women studies tendencies are also making me cringe reading about the 'vacations'...but I suppose there are a lot of things I do that would cause people in other cultures to cringe even more...really interesting though - love the posts : )

    Can't wait to see you this summer!